MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - CT scans have revolutionized medicine. They allow doctors to see inside the human body and diagnose problems without invasive surgery.
"You can see stones, bruises on the brain, even locate tumors and blockages," explained Baptist Medical Center South's Kelly Putnam.
Putnam is Baptist South's Radiation Safety Coordinator. He showed us his hospital's newest CT scanner, which generates an amazing 64 slices of the human body in just one second.
But that added imagery equals added radiation. Research shows one CT scan is equivalent to as many 500 regular chest X-rays.
You got a little bit too much...
Becky Coudert was one of dozens of patients at a Huntsville hospital who were told they received "elevated levels" of radiation during CT scans. She says it caused hair loss, headaches and memory loss.
"Eventually I was told, you got a little bit too much," she recalls.
Her hair grew back, but she still wonders what is going on inside her body.
"We are not informed. None of us knows that we are getting so much." Coudert warns. "When we have a cat scan, no one knows how dangerous it is."
The study says that fewer than half of the patients surveyed were informed of CT scan radiation risks. And only 5% of them realized that the radiation could raise their lifetime risk of cancer.
It is important to point out however, in most cases, the BENEFITS of a CT scan do far outweigh the risks.
The 4 Most Important Questions to Ask
Most hospitals, including Baptist, leave it up to individual doctors to educate their patients about radiation risks. So if you're prescribed a CT scan, make sure you ask questions.
The 12 News Defenders offer these four suggestions:
1. Would another test, like an ultrasound or MRI, work as well?
(And if you've already had a CT scan recently, can the doctor use the results of that test instead of a new one?)
2. Are the CT scans newer models that include dose reduction technology software?
3. Are the machines accredited by the American College of Radiology?
4. Does the hospital employ registered radiologic technologists?
Both of Montgomery's major hospital systems DO have registered technologists and accredited scanners.
Do you know of other dangers that need to be exposed? If you have something for the 12 News Defenders to investigate, be sure to email them at Defenders@wsfa.com.
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